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An eclectic blog on which appears daily one-thousand word essays on somethingorother.



Updated: 2018-04-26T09:27:13.485-06:00

 



DOCTOR, DOCTOR

2018-04-26T09:27:13.452-06:00

When I was working as a clerical specialist for the City of Portland in the Nineties, I was told I had the best insurance in town, thanks to the union.  Fat lot of good it did me.The front of my thigh burned, ached, sometimes dropped my knee out of service so I nearly fell.  I went to the doc.  The first one, a renowned cardiologist trying to finish out a career distorted by the invention of camera catheters that could be threaded inside the heart.  No more need for heart by-passes.  The second was a Japanese rheumatologist who joked but had no answers.  The third one was a pathologist.  He was very severe.  The fourth one was a female GP who put her hand on my knee and advised me to take Advil.  The fifth one was a joint specialist who took an X-ray of my knee while I was standing up and showed me that there was a piece of cartilage missing.  “Nothing to do about it,” he said briskly.  “The knee fails when the remaining cartilage is in the wrong place.”Walking down the hall, I was going to a meeting ahead of my boss.  He said mildly, “I think your right foot and leg are twisting.  It’s likely plantar fascliitis.”  He was a runner.  I looked up plantar fascliitis and saw he was right.  Tearing of the tissue on the bottom of the foot.  Quite common.The cure was simple: wrapping the ankle and arch in a stretchy bandage.  The foot was rolling because of the weakness of the knee.  The thigh pain was from the thigh desperately trying to keep my knee straight, so I put an elastic sleeve brace on that, too.  Cured.  Today everyone knows a lot about plantar fasciitis.  Cures and supports are featured in those grandma catalogues full of little gizmos.More recently I woke up on a Thursday morning as though someone had smashed a baseball bat into the side of my head just above my ear.  I was so dizzy that once I managed to stand up, I couldn’t move without clinging to the furniture.  It hurt a lot.  There was no chance of driving, partly because of the dizziness and partly because the roads were closed or emergency-only.  The little village clinic was closed  (One day a week operation.)  I hurt quite a lot so I took a couple of aspirin (which I never do) and went back to bed.  Soon up and vomited the rest of the day until there was only dry heaving.  Up, aspirin, down, a few hours of sleep, repeat.  The next two days were weekend, blizzarding.  On Monday I called the clinic to make sure they were open.  It’s only two blocks away.  The receptionist demanded to know why I was coming.  (They all do that so they can estimate the time for scheduling.)  I told her either a stroke or a tumor.  She told me those were too serious for the clinic and I should go to the main hospital, thirty miles away.  I once worked there.  I don’t trust them.  My pickup is old and faulty.  Being on the road was more dangerous than most afflictions.In the end it was an ear infection.  Self-diagnosed and healed by time, except for still staggering a bit.  I’m thinking.  The turnover at the clinic is fast enough that if I stall for a few months, there will be a new staff.It’s easy to speculate that since the sponsoring hospital is in some other county’s seat — a hospital with serious problems from aging staff, old-fashion policies, problematic docs and insufficient funds — that this is the source of the problem.  But it’s much broader than that — even world-wide.  Consider my eyes.At seminary my right eye became infected so I went to U of C emergency.  I was treated by a young woman about to graduate.  Her supervisor was overbearing and indiscrete.  He kept talking about how much money he would make if he were in private practise.  He insisted that the woman test my eye for glaucoma (irrelevant), grabbed her hand when the instrument was touching my cornea and scraped a shallow woun[...]



HOW I TEACH WRITING WHEN I DO

2018-04-25T03:34:27.356-06:00

---------------------------------------------------------------------As is my practice and preference, I don’t teach writing the way anyone else does.  (Oh, yeah.  Except I don’t teach writing anymore — but I did once.)  I begin by teaching mechanics the way Miss Carter taught the 8th grade.First learn the 8 parts of speech.  Second, realize that adjectives always come just ahead of the nouns that they describe.  They answer questions like “what kind, what color, how many, what size, which one?”  They are defined by USE in regard to an object or a word used like an object (love, patriotism)  Understanding how a word is used is the biggest part of doing grammar.  If  ^*# is used as an adjective, that’s what it is.  In this instance ^*# is now an adjective.  No, it isn't.  Here it's used as a noun.  Second try as an adjective:  "That's a ^*# sweater.Third, adverbs are trickier.  They can be anyplace in the sentence and will answer questions like “where, when, how fast, in what manner”.  (Lazily the dog turned.  The dog turned lazily.  The dog lazily turned.)  Learn to feel the differences when placement is different: the implications, the realizations.  How you want the reader to realize it.Fourth: memorize all the linking verbs.  Don’t ask why.  Just do it.  If you go to the meeting of Miss Carter’s Class of 1953 (they have lunch in Portland monthly) and ask them to recite the linking verbs, they can though we're all getting close to fifty.  “be, am, is, are, was, were, been, do, does did, have, has, had, shall, will, may, can, must, might, could, would, should.”Fifth: memorize all the prepositions.  “In, into, to, around, down, beyond, beside, between . . . “  You could make your own list because there are over 70, over 100, and Google will even give you a “popularity” chart.  When I taught the seventh grade, there was a poster of piggies at a fence all going “over, under, around, down, beside, between, etc.”  The main thing is that prepositions begin a phrase that ends in a noun or pronoun.  A “preposition” that doesn’t start a prepositional phrase is an adverb.  (He went in.  Tells where.)In public school texts there is barely enough time in a year to learn the above, but the real payoff comes later in more complex phrases.  The key to English sentences is the noun/verb axis.  After that, most people don't learn enough grammar for it to mean anything.Sometimes after the verb comes another noun that is the object — which the verb acts on — or the indirect object which the verb acts on in behalf of the subject.  All this stuff is abstract but indicated by word order which is usually in a row:  subject, verb, indirect object, object.  If you're talking, you already know this stuff in an unconscious way, but at a higher level you need the abstract ability to think of the category and use it as a handle rather than the word itself.  It's easier to change stuff around.Etc.  All this stuff is in grammar textbooks.  If it’s English.  These last three words are an incomplete sentence because it begins with a big connector word:  if, and, so, but, etc.  Learn them by heart too while you’re at it.  There are few.All languages have grammar.  If you are trying to learn the grammar of Blackfeet/foot, study German.  Also, think about what the world was like to those early people — to what did they pay attention?  (preposition, split verb with the subject in the middle, object).  How much did time and place and certain qualities really matter to them? When you get a good grip on all this double stuff (what you are saying/the uses of the words), you are in a position to grab a sentence, twirl it, bite it, pound it down flat, and make it sing.  Convert a prepositional phrase into a participle (a participle ends i[...]



U of MONTANA WANTS TO SNUFF IT'S WRITING PROGRAM

2018-04-24T04:29:41.107-06:00

Richard Hugofrom the film "Kicking the Loose Gravel Home"https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZuvDdVh4mz4In Montana every fall there is a state-wide in-service education event for teachers.  Each center for these events is in a town with a university.  When I taught English in Heart Butte, the superintendent forbade me to attend the workshop in Missoula.  Totally illegal and indefensible.  But understandable.  He was a former football coach and considered any attempt at literary achievement to be defiant revolution.  I was a known writer.  Sort of. Not to Missoula, but Missoula was considered a hotbed of writing.Too bad that his attempt to build a football team in Heart Butte came to naught.  (The boys sensibly thought hurting each other was dumb so they much preferred basketball, a game of skill.)  He might not have been pleased by the Jon Krakauer book called “Missoula” which refocuses the town as a hotbed of rape with at least one spiked boot in football and another in hatred and contempt of women. Here’s the latest addition to the dossier.  Bear in mind that the U of M was meant to be the humanities capital of the state.  (The “Cow College” is in Bozeman.)  If you’re still trying to decide which coast Montana is on, the excellent but surface-depth linked article may help you get some focus.)http://missoulian.com/news/local/university-of-montana-creative-writing-program-at-tipping-point-as/article_bf817f25-5c45-52c2-b862-ee0593113309.html?utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter&utm_campaign=user-shareH.G. Merriam, the early humanities scout, was a very nice guy and he was mostly left alone with his literary projects.  It was Richard Hugo who came on like Hemingway, pub-crawling and drunk-driving through the back-country of Montana.  Then Kittredge was supposed to be the next red-blooded male, but he threw in with a woman.  From there, to some people, writing looked like women all the way down.  In other words, dispensable.When I first came to Montana in 1961, I hoped to take classes in writing in Missoula, which has an ecology like New England where the “real” writers live.  I was already writing, but the only known female writer state-wide was Mary Clearman Blue, who did not make it into this article.  Even in 1990 when I taught in Heart Butte, the Missoula writers made it a point to do outreach to small town Montana.  Judy Blunt was part of that, but also Mary Clearman Blue and Jimmy Welch.  They came in a group to Choteau to celebrate A.B. Guthrie Jr, when he was too old and ill to attend himself, and by this time someone had enlightened my superintendent, because I took half-a-dozen of my best Blackfeet student writers to meet Welch who was very kind to them but still scared them half to death with his success.The high point of that time was attending a workshop led by Peter Matthiessen and sponsored by Missoula though it was held in the Bitterroot Valley.  It was quite wonderful, but never really counterbalanced the quiet bourgeois predictability of the ladies who taught writing.  Instead my allegiance went to the edgiest, most challenging, darkest, most powerful writing on the continent, mostly indigenous tribal people, gays, and environmental warriors.  Missoula never reached that level of savagery and elemental truth in spite of the Gothics and those who claimed descent from relentless frontiersmen.  Nor have those mostly male people join the fight to prevent the rape of writing.I can only be as fierce as I want to be because I don’t make money.  I’m not beholden to any football-sucking management types who pretend that destroying brains through collision is perfectly respectable.  I’m retired.  Accusing me of being bitter — which is evidently considered bad — has no impact.  Blogging means I can escape everyone except techies who regularly interfere by mucking up code with complexity and[...]



HITCHHIKERS THAT GET UNDER YOUR SKIN

2018-04-23T04:19:44.461-06:00

From the first moment there was a being that had a skin separating it from the environment, other beings tried to get in through that skin and internal bits tried to become creatures with their own skin.  Sometimes the intruders and rebels were accommodated and sometimes they were ejected and sometimes they became “diseases.”  Often they lived in or traveled in fluids, like blood, plasma, spit, milk, semen, excretions.“A bloodborne disease is a disease that can be spread through contamination by blood and other body fluids. Bloodborne pathogens are microorganisms such as viruses or bacteria. The most common examples are HIV, hepatitis B and viral hemorrhagic fevers."Diseases that are not usually transmitted directly by blood contact, but rather by insect or other vector [humans and other animals], are more usefully classified as vector-borne disease, even though the causative agent can be found in blood. Vector-borne diseases include West Nile virus and malaria."Since it is difficult to determine what pathogens any given sample of blood contains, and some bloodborne diseases are lethal, standard medical practice regards all blood (and any body fluid) as potentially infectious.” When I became the self-defined education coordinator of Multnomah County Animal Control, which had its roots in rabies control, I discovered the fantastic world of what lives in us.  For instance, one female officer’s husband had a rickettsia:  “any of a group of very small bacteria that includes the causative agents of typhus and various other febrile diseases in humans. Like viruses, many of them can only grow inside living cells, and they are frequently transmitted by mites, ticks, or lice.”  At that time (1975) they were barely perceptible, halfway between bacteria and viruses.Rickettsia live in organs, inside cells, but they travel there through blood.  They are often the parasites of bigger parasites, like lice or fleas.  Viruses are code without cells until they too manage to get into a cell.  Code entities like HIV are not content (!) until they become part of the chromosomes, changing the life-code of the entity.  Yet how can they have intentions when they aren't even alive? Prions are only molecules, but they are “contagious”, transmitting their misfolding interference to other molecules so that none can function as they should.  There are also “chaperones” which help molecules fold and unfold properly.  Not on purpose -- just because they do. The first Alzheimer’s victims I knew were during my ministry in 1983, too early for it to be known publicly or even to have a popular name.  One was a lesbian who had helped countless people through her social work and the other was a beloved female artist.  The friends of the latter sat by her bed and read her favorite books out loud to her, in hopes that it would do something good.  It did make her smile.We name and classify things according to what we know exists, but there are so many of these sub-detectable beings that they challenge the concept of “Life.”  And “Being.”  For every genome there’s an epigenome.  For every check there’s a balance.  For every orchestra there’s an instrument that hits a wrong note and spoils the symphony.We’re told that the number of parasite entities in each of our bodies is equal to or may exceed the number of original cells.  We’re told that the kind of bacteria in our guts participate in what guts do with both good and bad results.  We’re told that people physically close to us gradually share all these little bits, a kind of harmony or empathy.  We live in a soup of teeny-tinies that can gang up on us.The most ineradicable so far is the HIV chromosome intruder intent on propping open the gate to the castle so that every invader has access.  It is very hard to be objective about this, particularly since it was happ[...]



THE MARIAS RIVER

2018-04-22T04:33:53.431-06:00

Marias RiverThe rest of this book I'm accumulating -- this post is chapter three at present  -- is centered on the Marias River, which is the southern boundary of the Blackfeet Reservation.  In fact, it is at least the third boundary since cattlemen began pushing it back north.  The sequence of boundaries begins with Fort Benton on the Missouri River where there was early contact, then goes north when the agency is moved to Choteau, then briefly to Badger Creek Old Agency, and finally to Browning on Willow Creek, a small brook as water courses go.  To follow this discussion easily, one needs a "Montana Atlas and Gazetteer", a topographic map book available from Delorme, online  https://geology.com/store/delorme-atlas/montana-road-map.shtml   Keep it with your Rand McNally road map.  The detail includes oil wells, but they are not the subject of this post. If you are interested, there is an intriguing historical report about oil at https://pubs.usgs.gov/bul/0641j/report.pdfThe Marias River begins high in the Rocky Mountains as an array of trickles through the caved-off rock and then on down, consolidating through the tree line.  Finally it becomes a stream with a name.  Actually, it has a lot of names, depending on the namers, and it begins formally as two rivers: Two Medicine arises in the Badger/Two Medicine sacred lands  and Cut Bank Creek comes just off the Hudson Bay Divide in Glacier National Park.  The Hudson Bay Divide is the northern limit of the watershed that determined the boundary between the United States and Canada.  http://www.umt.edu/this-is-montana/columns/stories/marias-river.php(For a discussion of the names of this river consult "Let the Mountains Sing: Place Names of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park" by Jack Holterman.)  Clarke gave the name, "Marias," in honor of his cousin. In its 170 miles the Marias traverses — west to east — the Blackfeet Reservation boundary; an early dam that became a terrible flood; an historical Lewis and Clark location where a couple of Blackfeet were killed; the site of a later mistaken massacre of a band of “peace” Indians; a complex of eroded hoodoos called “Rock City’’; twenty miles of impounded irrigation water called “Lake Elwell”, created by Tiber Dam; and a stretch of peaceful scenery with limestone features.  It ends in the Missouri just before that river is in confluence as the “Three Rivers”.  The three rivers, west to east, were named by Meriwether Lewis in late July 1805 for President Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State James Madison, and Treasury Secretary Albert Gallatin.The Marias is crossed by north/south roads requiring bridges.  The one farthest west is on the “nine mile road”, an unpaved connector between Heart Butte and Dupuyer.  Do not drive it without good tires.  Then there are the bridge on Highway 89 and the larger bridge on I-15.  If one’s vehicle is a rubber boat, traveling from west to east, the river is brisk but never really whitewater rapids.  Spring high water is quite different from August when it might be possible to cross by fording.On the south side of the Marias is Pondera County where most roads are grids because the land is flat.  https://mdt.mt.gov/other/webdata/external/Planning/maps/county/POND_CS.PDF  I live in Valier on the south terminus of Highway 358 to Cut Bank, but if you ignore the abrupt turn to the west and continue straight north, you will end at the Rock City erosion area.  The Sullivan Bridge road also includes a bridge over the Marias, a favorite meeting spot for teenagers, and passes the turnoff for Willow Rounds, a ranch named for an ancient campground that is a little obscure now because plants have overgrown the circles of anchor stones that were brought to hold down the edges of lodges.  But the “rounds” themselves, which were [...]



LAKOFF'S TWO FATHER THEORY

2018-04-21T05:15:22.826-06:00

The All Powerful Father, institutionally endorsed.“Mother is the source of all good things!” said a minister to me once.  He was a liberal, progressive (up to a point), forgiving, Protestant minister, very much on the Jesus side rather than Jehovah.  The genius of Christianity is that choice, based on one’s experience in the family, which is molded by the culture where the baby was born and raised.Lakoff says “Father is all-powerful,” is the idea that alarms him about Trump.  “He thinks the President IS the country,” Lakoff says, and Trump absolutely believes it as factual.  He doesn't know it's a metonymy, a "part for the whole" metaphor.  He doesn’t know he’s an obnoxious narcissist sucking our blood — he BELIEVES that what he does is good for the country simply because it’s good for him.https://soundcloud.com/user-253479697/trumps-dangerous-metaphor-cambridge-analytica  Here’s the best formulation and synthesis of this mindset that I’ve found yet.  It’s on sound because my eyes are failing and sound is the backup.  (You could listen to it in the car or with earbuds.)  That simple sentence is the key, but let me elaborate.Lakoff sees the Jesus/Jehovah duality as reflected in fathers:  one kind is strict, authoritarian, and identical with the “biggest” power and status quo as they understand it. Trump does not understand that nations are problematic, even though his money strategy is world-wide.  Maybe this is why he’s not making any money — just building up obligations.  He does not understand that illicit greed is more powerful than nations, because he thinks he IS the nation and therefore in control even of mafias.  He doesn’t believe he can be illicit — he’s entitled.  Greed is his normal state. God was thought to be omnipotent and therefore He "died", because He wasn’t.  Time is omnipotent.  It will kill Trump.  It has already killed nations.Lakoff’s alternative desirable premise is that good fathers are nurturing, protective and able to provide, a thought that is losing believers.  Liberals, the political version, are popularly seen as carrying little rubber swords, righteous but not powerful, easily swept aside.The last time I taught school I was hired to control a class no one could tame because the boys felt full of power.  They hated their town, saw the people as suckers, parasites, losers.  I proposed to these young men that they would soon be the town’s leaders: firemen, policemen, councilmen, soldiers, businessmen, and so on.  They mocked that, sneered at the roles, claimed they could outsmart every male authority figure they knew of.  Except the coach.  The coach WAS the team and when they won a game it was so as to lay it at the feet of the coach.  That was as abstract about life as they could get.  It’s what America teaches today.But there are other force frames.  Consider Cinematheque, Smash Street boys, and Real Stories Galleries.  These could be considered “lost boys,” but maybe they are more “found boys.”  They were abandoned by the fathers, both the biological fathers and those who were supposed to act like fathers.  But when — after suffering — the boys found these groups, they found another way, the way of the brothers.  They are empathy-based, supporting each other because they understand each other.  This is democratic.This sound talk by Lakoff speaks of how authorities — who think they ARE the institutions they presumably lead and represent — will try to militarize faithfulness, to exclude everyone else as enemies, competitors, wrongly privileged, disloyal.  This is a product of the binary of opposing teams, based on armies, nation against nation.  Brotherly love by Tim Harrington at Restrepo.But brothers can be indivi[...]



FOLLOW THE WATER

2018-04-20T04:48:55.141-06:00

The beginning of American "merch" was here.The value of American water lay in its use for transportation and the demarcation of areas, just as in Europe, but on a different scale.  In South America, for instance, the Amazon was overwhelming.  But on the North American continent the problem was the direction it ran.  Hudson’s Bay was key to the northern part, since rivers fed into it, but farther south the fractal “crease” that the Mississippi River followed ran North/South.  The new dominators of North America longed to connect the two oceans they knew — Atlantic and Pacific — just as the Atlantic had connected two continents.The oceanic connection between “America” and “Europe” was perilous.  It took so long that food was a major problem (salt beef and rancid water) and scurvy killed sailors.  Years went by before the voyages were anything approaching safe or dependable.  But the American rivers were mostly navigable, as the indigenous people knew.  Early maps were based on rivers.Early merchandize concentrated on fiber because reliable preservation of food had not been invented yet.  (In the case of Africa, people themselves became cargo.)  Northern America and Canada offered a silly source of material for anomalous hats, “top hats”, with stovepipe crowns and narrow brims, made of the underfur of beavers which was shaved off the hides and compressed into felt.  This strange use persisted until silk became available.  The hats signified prestige, wealth, and respectability, rather like the topknots of exotic birds.  A scientist once experimented with tall headgear in birds, harmlessly gluing on exaggerated feathers to see whether the potency would persist.  It would, until there was so much added to the birds’ heads that they tipped over.  Thus, there seems to be some kind of biological key to the fashion, DNA never stipulated.The Hudson’s Bay company was happy to exploit this, building forts and trading posts everywhere they could, radiating out from the Bay itself which was the way of shipping the materials to the hat makers far away.  It took a while for indigenous people to register the value, until they realized it meant access to metal and, much later, guns.  Blankets and pots, then alcohol, played into the equations.  Hudson’s Bay mercantile company was essentially Canada and a force south of the boundary for a while since that line was only theoretical for a long time.Horses, incoming rather than exported, were valuable and persuasive on the prairie.  It took a while to learn how to prevent them dying every hard winter, but they were a means of travel on the high and dry prairie.  Because they fit into the niche of dogs (and were even called “elk dogs”) their use was natural.  They did change the nature of the seasonal web of trails, because horses need grass and more water than dogs.  And they changed the hunting of bison so that it was much less communal, as the "buffalo jumps" had been.Blackfeet were not happy with the idea of killing and selling beavers.  They didn’t like the mechanics of wading around in cold water and ice, but more than that, to them beavers were people who worked, who made things.  Some say that the Siksika were more interested in selling pemmican (dried buffalo meat pounded up with with berries) than beaver pelts.  (If the sailors had had pemmican, they would have lived, saved by a recipe.)Bison hides were too big to be shipped by canoe to ports.  It was the advent of industrialization in the form of railroads and steam ships on the biggest rivers that was a deliberate death warrant for the major herds who circulated the prairie, leading the following Blackfeet.  It is said that their pelts didn’t go for hats but rather provided leather for the conveyor belts[...]



EXISTENTIAL ECONOMY

2018-04-19T05:01:59.748-06:00

When the Siksika (Blackfeet on the US side and Blackfoot on the Canada side) were finally reduced on the US Piegan side to about 500 people, maybe half of them children, and cornered to one place in Montana, up against the Rockies, they were fortunate in several ways, though it didn’t seem like it at the time.  Until that time they had been able to pursue an existential* way of survival.Once the Euro-derived economy broke up the culture and deleted the buffalo, this land had never been an easy place to live, but it was understood in an existential economic way, simply by existing.  The resources that were there — grass, wind, sun, water and the fact that the land was an ecotone that slanted from high on the treeline in the Rockies down and out to the major rivers of the flatland which dug deep coulees from west to east across the prairie— amounted to a strategy.  The jetstream brought in catabatic winds that dropped moisture and created occasional relief from winter because they were warm.  Winter moisture that fell in the mountains was stored by cold and beavers until the growth season, then gradually released.  In winter the people lived among the cottonwoods along the coulee bottoms.  In summer they moved out through the grass to where the camas grew and the buffalo grazed.  They followed the berries from where they first ripened along the summer rivers to where the last bushes up high ripened last and sometimes freeze-dried before being picked or found by bears.  When the bugs became fierce, they moved to the ridges where wind blew the winged ones on their way.One of the early archeological signs of modernizing is “settling,” staying in one place so as to build shelter and even dedicated buildings with uses like granaries or churches.  Permanent construction was a sign of value and introduced "ownership."  Tribes who grew crops -- even the pastoralists (early-contact Navajo who kept sheep and late-contact nomads who took horses with them as they moved through their network) -- seemed more “civilized” because they were less existential people, whose resource needs were almost always spread out around them.  If not, there was trade, swapping real existing things.  No IOU's, no layaway, no mortgages.By the time “venture capitalist” systems— which are a form of literacy in that they are written records of what exists and what might exist in the future or has existed in the past, and can be recorded in order to “own” and hoard -- it was as hard for the Siksika to see how the coding of marks on paper could stand for real things as it was hard for Euro-coding types to understand nomadic wealth and culture.  They did not see a lifestyle as an investment.  Investing with one’s skills, understanding, and practices with a landscape as a "bank" was too far out to understand.But the new venture capitalists themselves, the Euros, were still struggling to understand the industrial systems which were dependent on that “venture” of rich people’s investment gambling in railroads, factories and ownership.  It was all dependent on the concept of ownership and of “interest” which meant loaning money at a certain optimistic rate, expecting a future return.  These were unknown to the prairie tribes.  It was all code to them, but not one they knew or that even seemed possible.The venture capital understanding of land was that it could be used to produce, like a factory; that it could be collateral to secure a loan; and that it might contain unknown raw resources worth a lot of money if they had the venture capital necessary to industrially dig it up.  They did not know that land, untouched, was itself a great provider of the resource of water, or that water could be industrialized as a source of power, as a tool for di[...]



COMEY, STEPHANOPOULUS AND -- OH, SIGH -- TRUMP.

2018-04-18T05:29:02.810-06:00

Stephanopoulos and ComeyThough I haven’t read Comey’s book, I’ve watched the entire interview with Stephanopoulos.  I even learned how to spell George’s Greek last name.  I did not know he was the son of a Greek Orthodox priest or that he had “attended Balliol College at the University of Oxford in England, as a Rhodes Scholar, earning a Masters of Arts in theology in 1984. He states that he spent much of his time trying to root his political leanings in the deeper philosophies that he studied while in college.”  (Wiki)For comparison I hold two Master’s degrees, one an MA in Religious Studies from the University of Chicago which has as much clout as Oxford, and the other an MDiv from Meadville/Lombard which means very little.  In 1984 I was circuit-riding for the UU’s in Montana, which in toto amounts to a medium-sized congregation.  I did not try to fit my politics into white male Western culture, but rather into Blackfeet culture, without being very sure what that is.So George and I have overlap but we are not entirely alike.  He’s a pop culture guy with a transient career as an actor and personality, but he still has that solid base in respectability.  We both started out in conservative family settings — his “box” more square, historical and strong than mine — and gradually knocked our boundary walls out as experience contradicted them.  I was more unconventional.  Maybe not.Now Comey.  His “box” was solid and Irish.  “Comey graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1982, majoring in chemistry and religion. His senior thesis analyzed the liberal theologian Reinhold Niebuhr and the conservative televangelist Jerry Falwell, emphasizing their common belief in public action.  He received his Juris Doctor (JD) from the University of Chicago Law School in 1985.”  It’s possible that when Comey was attending the law school, I was typing in the transcription pool, learning computers.  I can attest that the culture there was very Republican and ambitious.  I would also claim that Reinhold Niebuhr and Jerry Falwell are a total mismatch, one that’s reflected in Comey’s life.  That explains a lot.  And Stephanopoulos understood.The event we are in now will “open up” Comey — the box is Pandora’s.  The moment I tried to find again but didn’t, was a few seconds when Comey was talking and almost accidentally touched on the criminal side of Trump’s life.  He was alert enough to realize that he had broken through a boundary of some kind.  Trump’s face was suddenly dark and hard in a way it had not been before, even in some of his more politically savage moments.  It was a “tell” that reminded Comey of the Mafia.  Not the only one.Trump’s box has no national or patriotic categories in it.  He talks about such things only by keying off the public reactions, which — since it is volatile and unreasonable — creates his many contradictions and lies.  The public never figures this out.  Trump’s Mafia is hidden behind Trump’s Russia.  Russia is just a form of Mafia.  Putin uses that to control Trump.  Luckily, Comey knows about the amica nostra, the loyal insiders who turn against the boss only at pain of death.  “I sat there thinking, Holy crap, they are trying to make each of us an 'amica nostra' — friend of ours. To draw us in,” writes Comey, who helped prosecute Gambino members in 2002. “I suddenly had the feeling that, in the blink of an eye , the president-elect was trying to make us all part of the same family.”  Trump knows no other way to do it.  And it is HIS family, his childhood family.It’s a pretty basic way to understand society.  Tribes operate that way.  I’ve had[...]



WHAT'S SO BAD ABOUT PEE?

2018-04-17T14:43:16.957-06:00

Valier is known as a pretty little town with nice people.  Recently the new postal worker who instigated a recycling bin had to move it inside the counter office because someone peed in it.  This is strange because most folks around here — at least the younger ones — are pretty loose about peeing outdoors.Tonight I watched a detective show in which a wine competition was, uh, contaminated because someone peed in the previously prize-winning merlot.  The judges called it “rancid.”I once preached about pee.  I’d been at a conference out in the country and drank too much coffee before I drove to the next venue.  There was no place to hide and drenching was immanent, so I took as much cover as I could and was as quick as I could be on what I hoped was a deserted landscape.  Almost immediately the local Church of England officiant, his wife and his mother-in-law, appeared, gawked and drove on in shock.  After the sermon an earnest young man came to tell me how grateful he was that I’d talking about something human, something real.Once I had a bad cold and was working for a woman from down South.  She assured me that her grandmother always cured a cold by gargling with her own urine.  I didn’t do that, but tried to find out whether it might work, but got no evidence.  People are not objective about bodily fluids.  Their main reaction is to close the subject.Now that we have pee in a context, let’s talk about mattresses.  Fluids often flood them.  Kids with nightmares.  People who have breakfast in bed and spill the coffee.  Lovers who get carried away and spill the champagne.  Drunks who don’t wake up enough to get where they ought to go.  Any housekeeper with sense covers the mattress with something waterproof, esp. in hotels where there might be anything, including vomit. feces, and blood -- menstrual or murderous.Bodily excretions are all symbolic, to different intensities and degrees, depending on one’s experience, what one learned from observation.  For some, every mess is a kind of violence, for others every stain is about sex, and for a few excretions are simply what they are: possibly unpleasant but part of existence.  Medical people, parents and lovers might be that way.  (There’s no accounting for kinks.)Now let’s talk about sex workers.  They know that the vulnerable easily confuse everything between the legs, the “junk.”  Sex=violence=dirty.  It’s pretty much a given that a man of a certain age, class, and upbringing is going to buy-in to specific taboos.  Harsh potty training.  Aspiration to respectability.  The qualities a hired nursemaid values.  Cleanliness.  Sans affection or even care.These are times in which the markers for respectability, esp. sexwork, have been changed, moved way out wider.  Now we are aware that sexworkers at a certain level are good psychologists.  And know a lot of tricks.  Little bladders of this-and-that to hide in clothing and use when necessary as imitations of the real thing: semen, urine.  They might know about that legendary citadel of defiance called “Mineshaft,” a bar/club/event invested in turning all those baby hygiene things upside down.  Much of it was about seeing what is normally hidden.  The health department closed them down.Let’s imagine Russia.  First the two ladies of the night who were sent in by power-mongers look at this seventy-year-old American from a hidden peephole.  He’s clearly a little scared, his orangish face beaded with sweat.  He would need a little”framing.” Give him the idea that he was in charge, that he was truly damaging someone he hated.  peepee=insult=damage.’’  That w[...]



"THE HERO": a review

2018-04-16T12:42:38.038-06:00

Sam ElliottWatching “The Hero” while Comey is being interviewed about his new book is an exercise in the surreal and the ironic.  Sam Elliott is very much the laconic, lanky, strong man facing death, which is the adversary no one can overcome.  He’s not a top level cowboy actor, but you can bet that if there is a Western written by Louis L’Amour and starring Elliott, it’s going to be iconic — if it’s a little bit captured by its time.In terms of place, Elliott was born in Sacramento but finished growing up along the Columbia River near Portland, part of the wet West with lots of trees.  I grew up on the Portland side and am five years older.  I don’t have a mustache because I’m female and I don’t have a drawl unless it’s on purpose, like his.  Elliott tries to set up a connection with Texas but I don’t — because why would I?Elliot sounds a bit like Robert Mitchum, who was a much heftier actor in terms of weight and gravitas. (ahem).  But he claims he doesn’t use pot, while Mitchum served time for it.  When the results of the weed and mushrooms are shown, they are not depicted negatively.  More like access to that oceanic feeling of belonging to the universe.  But you have to buy it.Marc Basch and Brett Haley appear to be a team, with Haley taking the honors as director.  They are not naive Western writers — there are no horses in this film — but they appear to be experts in contemplating the ironies of life in Hollywood where — even more than usual — reality is elusive and much of life is imaginary, remembered, guessed at, and sad.LA is the location of the Gene Autry Museum of the American West.  https://theautry.org/exhibitions/masters-american-west#lg=highlights&slide=1  If you go there, you’ll see that they try to make an association with French impressionists.  It’s the plein aire thing. a claim to be “Culture.”  Ol’ Singin’ Gene, whom I always despised because I was a Roy Rogers fan, is sort of washed away, but his money paid for the basic museum.  It’s a great little money-maker, just like Autry himself. The art has nothing to do with the movie, but the audience attending is the key to both.  It’s about the fondness of imaginary history shared by unlikely people who feel elevated by their fondness.Elliott’s deft depiction of being the beloved icon among people who have no self-awareness, no real understanding of a period that only lasted a century, and his ability to feel trivial amusement as significant.  But on the other hand, and not depicted in this film, Western art can be impressive — just like Western film.  But the hero is correct in lifting up the sweet little dumpling of a fan as the important one and awarding her a generic plaque.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gM3NeAOyv94  is a good example of dialogue that works well between males.  https://lauraprepon.com/red-carpet-sundance/  is a good clip about why the experience on-set came through in the film itself.  Mostly the story is in someone’s house, not one of those pretentious piles of stone and glass that the aficionados need for confirmation of value.  The decorations are not avant garde paintings but simply film posters. Two vital aspects of this “Western” definition are religious expression and wry/dry humor.  Living on the wide expanses where survival is often a matter of attitude, these are vital to the genre.The best religions are seamlessly expressions of the land and sea, those rhythmic expressions of power that far exceed human aspirations, even living in Malibu where the dangers of fire and tsunamis are what keep people humble.  This film, which has clever dialogue and a short arc o[...]



DEMOCRACY -- WTF

2018-04-15T10:49:36.695-06:00

“Definition of democracy. 1 a : government by the people; especially : rule of the majority. b : a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.”  (Merriam-Webster)There are enough problems with this system to keep people wrestling with the idea of something better.  Part of the problem is that many of the defining properties in the definition are unconscious,  For instance, the idea of a “supreme power” lodged in many minds is still the old idea of a God, a sort of Sky King who controls and judges everything.  Our modern scientific understanding of what-happens-and-why is much more controlled by the idea of a zillion little forces, some of them unseen, that converge in many ways, sometimes with disconcerting results.One of the forces that has been active in the past and still sputters along in the deep recesses of the minds of old white men is the notion that whatever  they think is right really “is.”  Humans have often been saved by the turnover between generations, when the sons have had enough of the sins of the fathers and simply turned the page.  This isn’t happening quickly enough and people in power are clinging to their privilege when they are eighty, statistically likely to be nuts and to fall asleep in meetings.  This is not to mention the complication of women being active.Of course it is obvious that “free elections” are not possible when hostile cyberhackers can reach into our machinery.  Anyway, how is it possible to take a vote — or even a census — when people are not invested by being citizens in some provable way besides the way they appear.  And how is it that corporations think they are people except when it comes to morality. Among the many sins of the media is the tendency to make everything into a food-fight, a binary of extreme positions (including invented facts) that never lead to the reconciling integration as in the original schema for courts and other decisions.  (Thesis and antithesis are supposed to end in synthesis.)  This strategy leads to amazing deadends and excludes most alternatives, insights, and realistic strategies.  The lowest part of the brain comes alive, which gives institutions and businesses the idea that they are real, not a velveteen rabbit but an enraged toy.  Certainly it puts their profits on steroids.  (Of course, a little reversal like a falling stock market and they all panic.)  The strategy ends with “winner takes all” or “last man standing” which are ideas both based on the devastation of war, “winning” the rubble, not the race.Jamie Bartlett, whose scruffiness somehow makes him more convincing, outlines a strong case for what the internet allows the self-entitled people to do — if they can manage code.  That means sub-groups like pariahs, outcasts and elitists who have no concern for democracies except to get them out of the way, because they are conformist.  Not just trying to make everyone alike, but trying to make everyone like them.  But the way “in” is merchandise, the source of all the middle-class features (paying bills, meeting deadlines, keeping the shelves stocked, small scale innovation, dependable shipping).  https://www.ted.com/talks jamie_bartlett_how_the_mysterious_dark_net_is_going_mainstream   This is Jamie on a TED talk, which is a middle-class source to reassure you.Alas for democracy, these systems are ways of evading taxation.  How do you tax “pay pals”?  Two deep desires meet in the internet:  a desire for privacy, esp when it comes to e[...]



WHAT'S HAPPENED TO US?

2018-04-14T21:45:24.066-06:00

This morning the Washington Post printed online a cluster of posts that cause me to despair.  They were not about how stupid and criminal the President is, nor were they about the mysterious paralysis of Republicans who fail to deal as they were voted into office to do.  They were about the American public.The idea of a democracy is dependent on the idea that voters will be sane and act in their own interests.  But they’re not.  They don’t.I blame day-care or at least the socialization of children (often through institutions) by their cohort rather than any adults.  They are confirmed in child behavior because the adults are busy elsewhere and don’t have time or patience to answer questions.  The last time I got trapped into teaching (about 2004) the fondest memories of the kids were about child care — not the leaders and protectors but the other kids.  They told me frankly, grownups don’t know anything.  They’re incompetent.  Earlier, the kids in Heart Butte said they dreaded growing up when they would, as adults, by default, each become a drunk who is unfaithful.  Some very nice ladies in larger towns are technically like that.After I came back to Valier in 1999, I slowly realized that the people around me were different and becoming “differenter.”  Flatter, more predictable, less aware of major issues, not very funny.  No irony.  I thought it was me.  You know, arrogant.  Grumpy old female.But ever since seminary, which was VERY different from an animal control locker room, women have been bent on competition.  As officers, we “first women” stuck up for each other, gave a little boost when we could.  These university women wanted to draw blood, but undetected.  The guys in both places were about the same: oblivious.When I run into “nice” people now, they all have little scripts they press me into.  The realistic ones see an eccentric with too many cats.  The “mystical” (self-defined and unrealistic) talk “spirituality.”  They mean pretty stuff. Angels.  They haven’t read the bloody suffering tales of saints.London production of "Angels in America"A bit more realistic about angels.The hardest bunch of these scenario-makers are the stubborn ones who stick with Trump.  You can remind them of all the evidence over and over and they look at you, notice that your lips are moving, and don’t hear a thing you say.  Traitor, criminal, rapist — they don’t get it.  They just go on in the same rote way they ever did.  What happened to the country people I used to know?  Blackfeet, Cree, Metiz, whatever.  They never panicked — they never fled.  When something really bad happened, they reacted.  And they knew a mafia don when they saw one.But these new shallow sorts don’t really believe how serious things can get.  To them it’s all on a screen somewhere, not real.  You know — like walking on the moon.  They hear about immigrants and trafficked kids, but they never met any.  They think.  I suspect they WILL run, but only when it’s too late.If an old woman in a small town where she only has one option — to write — can see this so clearly, why can’t they?  There are a lot of former military floating around but they only think about their past — not their future.  They operate on stereotypes from TV the same as everyone else.  People refer to me as “that little lady.”  I’m neither little nor a lady.  I don’t even dress nice.The last time I felt this way was when I was in high school when Hungary tried to become independent.  That was when I mem[...]



AAAAAUUUUUGGGG !!!

2018-04-13T10:58:59.824-06:00

Friday, April 13  Check the date.Anyway, I'm overwhelmed.  Back if I ever catch up.IN THE MEANTIME:I JUST SPENT AN HOUR TRYING TO ESCAPE FROM AMAZON PRIME.  CAN'T DO IT.  DON'T SIGN UP.I tried one of those "truthfinder" programs that charge to tell you everything that the data scrapers have found.It was all wrong.I am eclectic.  I am not consistent.  Assumptions don't work.Twice lawyers have lost cases with me in the jury because they assumed that all clergy are conservative.The assumptions are framed by young, male, urban, sketchily educated people.  Even they should know that if I rent an apartment in a big urban building, I won't know anyone else who lives there.They know nothing about indigenous people and can't spell anything relevant about them.  Computers are fussy about spelling, but have no references for oral languages.Amazon and others have cleverly discovered that they can prevent a person from unsubscribing by declaring that the person's password is wrong and refusing to make a new one.Seven inches of snow fell yesterday.  It is April.  I don't hear any roads being cleared.  I need to get to a county seat.This "granular" advertising has still not discovered that I'm female.They still think that people who read about porn are trying to get turned on, not trying to understand and ameliorate.  Or that porn is anything definable anyway.[...]



WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE HUMAN?

2018-04-12T10:24:20.591-06:00

This morning I had assigned myself to write about “media” and had in mind the difference the actual “medium” makes in how the writing turns out.  If it’s meant to be read on your iPhone, it will be short and maybe shocking.  If it’s for paper, bound nicely, it will be long and even worth keeping.  But in between is a lot of stuff, some of it dying — like newspapers owned for profit.  People who were once shut-out by illiteracy are now also shut out by not owning the machinery of access.Words can be in sound, in image, in libraries, in the moment.  So much is fleeting, or supposed to be, like the lists of addresses in one’s e-life.  A reporter of undetermined age listened carefully to Zuckermen’s testimony to Congress yesterday and took seriously the promise that everything recorded on Facebook could be accessed by herself, using specific strategies and addresses.  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/11/technology/personaltech/i-downloaded-the-information-that-facebook-has-on-me-yikes.html?ribbon-ad-idx=3&rref=technology/personaltech&module=Ribbon&version=context®ion=Header&action=click&contentCollection=Personal%20Tech&pgtype=articleThis is a document presumably in the “cloud”, which is really a mammoth storage facility, like a warehouse, where the info about you can be accessed only by who has the key — not usually you.  She categorizes what is saved there, which is mostly a list of what she buys, who her buddies are and WHO HER ENEMIES ARE !!  All the people she unfriended and blocked.  Her exes (modern life) and romantic transactions.  In short it is a pointillist portrait of herself, not necessarily choosing the points she would.But it’s not “special,” it’s not sympathetic to the sorts of things that all the wannabe novelists and autobiographers would include.  It’s just a generic  media-hip record of an urban, haplessly educated, go-with-the-flow female.  No children.Strangely, Zuckerman himself is even more featureless.  Someone asked an informed male reporter, who had previously acquired a bit of techie experience, whether Zuckerman — so impressive to some because he is a billionaire and founded a sophomoric ad platform — could possibly be “real.”  He’s so featureless sitting there on his booster seat.  I thought of sex dolls, absolutely UN-unique, using his little repeat sentence formula:  “title, (colon), “I am blameless.”  Actually, he came off more like clueless.  “I’d have to ask my people.”  Fact-checkers afterwards found things he had wrong, or said he thought, that covered up damaging information.  But the legislators were like characters from “The Dark Crystal,” clueless as puppets.The person who was asked whether Zuck were “real” responded that for a techie he was pretty much true to type.  More un-human than in-human, and richer than most but certainly about money.I repeat again and again that the question of our time — now that most of us have dispensed with God — is “what is a human being?”  Clearly there are a lot of different kinds.  I ain’t no techie, though forces try to sell me “devices” and make me give up my iPhone number.  (I use a tabletop computer and a landline, so it is impossible to comply.)However, before computers there was a decade when I belonged to a sociological community where I “fit,” the UUA.  “Religious” communities are actually clusters of sociologically similar people who share concerns and ideals.  In the end I was missing enough of an urban dimension [...]



SHHH! THAT'S A SECRET!

2018-04-11T10:35:46.785-06:00

Since most Americans (including the President) get their understanding of the law from television shows, which means ideas that make for good plots with lots of suspense, the concepts are necessarily a bit blurred.  The first thing to realize is that concepts like confidentiality and privilege are never absolute, even for lawyers and kings.Quotes from The Alexander Blewett III School of Law, The Scholarly Forum @ Montana Law   6-2014 A (Different Kind of ) Fathers' Day Column "Bless Me, Father..." Montana's Clergy Privilege Cynthia Ford“This column deals with the application of Montana's clergy privilege. We have already covered privileges in general, and the spousal (yes) and parent-child (no) privileges specifically. Montana's privileges are statutory, and the statutes are construed narrowly to accommodate the competing public interest in full disclosure of relevant information. The basic purpose for all privileges is to foster certain specified relationships: 26-1-801. Policy to protect confidentiality in certain relations. There are particular relations in which it is the policy of the law to encourage confidence and to preserve it inviolate; therefore, a person cannot be examined as a witness in the cases enumerated in this part. . . . . . . . . .The third of the thirteen specific privilege statutes in Montana protects certain religious communications: 26-1-804. Confessions made to member of clergy. A member of the clergy or priest may not, without the consent of the person making the confession, be examined as to any confession made to the individual in the individual's professional character in the course of discipline enjoined by the church to which the individual belongs. This statute was first enacted in 1867; its last amendment was in 2009, as part of a gender-neutralization bill. In the 147 years of its history, the Montana Supreme Court has construed this statute in only two cases, one in 1998 and the other in 1999. (Both were criminal cases in which the defendants were convicted of sexual abuse of their respective stepdaughters.)In both cases, however, the Court affirmed the trial judge's refusal to apply the statute and held the communications to be non-privileged and admissible even on the broader interpretation of the statute. . . . . . . . . .More than a dozen specific laws describe what can be made public and what cannot.  They include things like adoption, health, location of historic or paleontological cultural sites, criminal justice testimony, personal welfare, therapy.  The public has locked onto lawyer/client and clergy confidentiality, which are among the oldest.  Over the centuries the general attitude toward “who can know what” has swung from one extreme to the other.  At one point in history it was acceptable to torture people until they confessed to what the public or authorities already assumed to be true.  In some contexts, like the Mafia, the penalty for disclosing facts is death.“The clergy privilege was first developed for traditional hierarchal churches with clear demarcation between clergy and lay workers. The obvious archetype is the Catholic confessional, with secret confession and absolution in a private booth housing only the priest and the penitent.”This became problematic in two ways.  It became a cover for forbidden and predatory sex on the part of clergy, so that now it is more conventional for the priest to sit quietly near the penitent in plain sight of the congregation, but possibly to turn away or look down.  The content has also become more therapeutic and less dogmatic a[...]



RICO HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH IMPEACHMENT

2018-04-10T10:46:54.284-06:00

Why do we admire mobsters?Months ago I was attending a town council meeting when a discussion developed about one of the town workers who had sustained lasting damage when a trench collapsed on him.  He had no safeguarding caisson because when he asked for one not long earlier, the council refused to buy one.  They are fiercely expensive.  As it turned out, the treatment for his wrenched back is also costly.  Now the town owns the protection and the workers use it, though it’s a hassle.That’s not the point.  At the meeting we were talking about possible major future costs and I mentioned the remaining possibility of the worker suing the town.  One of the council members became all upset and insisted that OSHA had imposed its judgement and that was the only law that mattered.  I tried to convey the idea that there are many kinds of law and that government regulation like OSHA is only one of them.  It is not the same as criminal law and not the same as “tort” law, which means that anyone can sue anyone, regardless of laws, if there is an injustice involved.  He couldn’t get it.  He was thinking of classroom rules in grade school.Likewise, the heated debate over the seizure of materials belonging to Trump’s lawyer, NOT Trump, involves kinds of laws.  Some people are so intent on impeachment, which is a remedy provided by the Constitution of the United States and therefore a governmental law, that they are attacking Mueller.  But the evidence that will turn up is not likely to have anything to do with governmental matters — rather it is expected to be valuable in a kind of law called RICO.  “The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, commonly referred to as the RICO Act or simply RICO, is a United States federal law that provides for extended criminal penalties and a civil cause of action for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization.”  There are in addition state laws against the same offences.  So this is a bit of a blend, but in this instance is being conducted and prosecuted by state entities, which Trump has no control over.  In any case, the focus on these papers is divided.  I suspect Trump had just an inflated idea of the presidency that he thought he could not be prosecuted for what he had done earlier.Now special teams are sorting materials into at least three piles:  those that relate to criminal charges against Michael Cohen; those that relate to any charges against Trump specifically which I presume will require another search warrant or other document of entitlement before they can go to Mueller; those that relate to the specific case of paying off Stormy — and maybe some that don’t relate to anything interesting.  Until this is done by these teams who have a special name and special training, we don’t know whether “nothing was found”, as Trump claims.  He judges the world by TV, so he expected bodies and smoking guns, I guess.  Probably the search warrants related mostly, if not exclusively, to criminal materials about Cohen.  It’s hard for Trump to think of himself as incidental, but technically that’s probably true.Cohen has no protection.  Trump cannot pardon a state crime.  The idea will probably be to squeeze Cohen hard enough to get criminal evidence against Trump and also, I’m sure, there is a hope that hard criminal evidence against Trump will show up in these materials.  Then the issue becomes whether a sitting president can be arrested and tried for crimes.  Precedents (which are a[...]



FIRE OPENS A WINDOW

2018-04-09T20:59:17.262-06:00

April, 2018, fire in the Trump TowerThis post is written a little too previously since the April inflammatory tale of death in the Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue has only broken into public consciousness in the last hours.  But even the scant knowledge we have so far, plus our suspicions, is enough to guarantee this story will be around for a very long time and may have major consequences.Every culture has a shadow culture based on what the culture defines as forbidden, secret, convenient and defiant.  Those who dip into that world or are creatures of that world will find another shadow culture inside it that can be understood and exploited.  The boundary of a culture — once made explicit by a fence of a type called “palings” — goes back and forth, moved by circumstances and maybe resistance from one edgy category to another.  The ones most potent, most persistent, and most tempting to evade are about sex, money and power — all risen to the neon screaming of the internet.In a rural place or a small enough town, we see each other slip back and forth through the fence.  When a FBI honeypot sting took out a local scuzzball who tried to “date” a 12-year-old, most townspeople said,  “Oh, yeah.  We always knew.”  This protected the fence.  That’s what the reaction was for.  Everyone pretended they knew and said so, which was supposed to show they didn’t participate.  It’s assumed that the ones who are initiated say nothing.  (The main characteristic of mine that saves me from being wicked is that I’m a blabbermouth.)Another is that I’m mostly naive and uninformed.  When I was little, just learning to sound out words, the boy across the street used a bit of brick to write on the sidewalk “SHIT.”  “Go ask your mother what that means,” he said.  She laughed.  It was her favorite swear word, used only in extremes.  I never heard her say “fuck.”  The boy had assumed she was an enforcer and that I would be punished.  I was baffled.  But I asked.  I always ask.One of the attractions of occupations like theatre, art, or religion is that they are users of the forbidden in language and action.  Art can be part of this as well.  The Scriver bronzes of nudes are kept at the Montana Historical Society, hidden in a closed cabinet.  The Russell paintings of cavorting whores and cowboys are not taken seriously, though he and Nancy’s participation in such scenarios sterilized the pair with what was then called “venereal disease.”  Nancy was not a “mama” type anyway.  And Charlie loved his whores.Serious power-mongers who use violence and secret bookkeeping  (bribes and gambles) to accrue what they interpret as wealth and power know that one must be monastic in terms of a strict social code, like Putin.  Trustworthy, clean, faithful, stylish but not flamboyant, good posture — how could such a person order people to be killed because their books don’t balance?Theatre, art and religion will harbor individuals who disobey this code.  They may not be sexually binary or obey gender-determined social roles, which is a source of value.  This has been almost overwhelmingly exploited by the new social media on the Internet, revealing and concealing factoids of unproven validity but vividly illustrated.We are about to learn far too much about Todd Brassner, the man who was killed by a fire in his apartment in Trump Tower.  The dynamics are no different from those of a local chancer who goes home [...]



POWDERED BONE: WHO KNEW?

2018-04-08T15:04:58.807-06:00

David ReichThis is a continuation of comments about “Who We Are and How We Got Here” by David Reich.  I see it as part of the enterprise of who “humans” are in a religious sense.  It’s clear that we are a product of an immensely long and varied sequence of interactions that we’ve only guessed at recently, because of discovering the chemical code that underlies life on this planet from the smallest virus to the most imposing dinosaur.Not until nearly the end of this book does David Reich get specific and personal enough that we feel as though we may have been reading his diary for the past few years.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  In fact, it’s one of the book’s strengths and will be valuable even when the information described has become old-fashioned.  Much of the book is about techniques of discovery and how each offers an experience much like learning to read.  I remember what a revelation that was.The bottom line is that David is an Orthodox Jew raised at least partly in Israel.  He has had to fend off the idea that he is “smarter” than others because of a genetic advantage which is presumed to be attached to being “Jewish” — even though there are people who will assert that Judaism is a religious choice rather than a physical heritage.  I could observe that those saved from the Nazis were the best and brightest, because they had the most salvific contacts who got them to Manhattan where they have concentrated into leaders who have become cultural anchors.  (In both good and bad senses.)The ultimate dilemma with which he must come to terms is that of DNA being sourced in skeletons which are often taboo to acquire and sometimes religiously protected.  There is very little study of Native American DNA because they resent their bones being taken away and ground up.  Too many times this has turned out to be a scam, a way of tricking them out of information commercially valuable, none of which profit came back to them in spite of promises.  Their sense of desecration and worry over tempting retribution from beyond is still very strong.  Witnesses told me that when the Blackfeet skeletons were returned from the Smithsonian, carefully wrapped in blankets and contained in boxes, the oldest people stayed as far away as they could for fear of retribution from beyond.  It was the young “modern” people who sang and wept as they buried the boxes.One of David’s strongest qualifications for this job is his appetite for surprise.  Again and again what was expected turned out to be wrong.  That could sometimes be corrected in a way people could hear, but often the assumptions based on the previous wrong assumptions just went right on being believed.Not long ago everyone was beguiled by the idea of how many men (translated to “all”) in Europe had Y DNA from Genghis Khan.  It was as though this massive figure had inseminated each of their ancestors.  They did not know about code from “an ancestor who lived around fifteen hundred years ago.  It is especially common in people with the last name O’Donnell, who descend from one of the most powerful royal families of medieval Ireland, the “Descendants of Niall”—-referring to Niall of the Nine Hostages, a legendary warlord from the earliest period of medieval Irish history.  If Niall actually existed, he would have lived at about the right time to match the Y-chromosome ancestor.” (P. 236)Both of these mythic figures are examples of “Star Cluster[...]



DNA: THE STATE OF THE ART

2018-04-07T12:12:11.611-06:00

“Who We Are and How We Got Here:  Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past” by David Reich is a book meant to be read and left, not treasured, because it admits within that it will soon be out of date.  It is a compendium of what we know, are learning, guessing, bound to be wrong, or a transforming revelation about the analysis of DNA.  Not the popular “who was your grandmother —was she a queen?” sort of thing, but the millions of years of data swapping that built our species, temporary and provisional though it is.  Surprising, provoking and mysterious.For instance: A recurring DNA similarity crops up between Native Americans and the French.  (You always suspected that, right?)  WTF?Agriculture is only a little over eleven thousand years old and began in Turkey and Syria.  Wouldn’t a person expect their culture to be leading instead of still stuck back there so long ago?  Or will we all be knocked back to that level if electricity disappears?The center of the action in analysis is in Eurasia which takes the position that what is now “EU” is really a big peninsula.  Most of the scientists in this book have “brown” and “black” names — no Smith and Jones.  The important labs are likewise much closer to the center of Eurasia.One rather terrifying concept is that of “ghost” populations.  We are reconciled to the idea that some lines of hominin and even "modern" humans simply fizzled out.  Neanderthals and Denisovians for instance, who have left DNA code in us.  Among the reasons for the demise of the “pure” and pre-existing neanderthals has been a proposed mutation in the testes of the males  (females don’t have testes, Moronica) that either sterilized their sperm or the resulting conceptus.  There is another fascinating puzzle here that involves a subgroup that was evidently violently warlike, using huge hammer mauls to destroy each other.  No one wept much when they died out, except maybe the boys down at the pub on a Saturday night when their football team lost.That’s not what “ghost populations” are.  If you can glance aside to the theologians, those who studied the original Bible manuscripts (once it was figured out which were actually to become the Bible) was that there was a body of Gospels (there are many more than the four we know) that referred to a document that couldn’t be found.  The references agreed on what it was and they quoted it quite a bit — it was a standard reference for these people — but either by fluke or design, it is missing.  Many look for it.  It is a “ghost” document.  They call it “Q”, a term picked up by “Star Trek” to use for the name of a powerful but unknown entity.  A Question.In terms of DNA, it was discovered that the evidence provided by DNA of established but not modern code could only be explained by the existence of another people who left no other traces.  In fact, it has become established and accepted that whole cultures with vigorous commerce, pleasing ways, and successful ecologies have gone extinct.  Some of them seem indirectly “better” than us, with bigger brains for instance.  Maybe there was a volcano or a plague.  Or invaders.For those of us who have always seen everything in terms of process, it is clear that human identity is always in process with the people going somewhere, changing into something new — hopefully better adapted.  There is no su[...]



IT'S NOT JUST FACEBOOK

2018-04-07T08:46:41.069-06:00

It’s informative to remember how Facebook got its start as a college frat-boy “book” recording who among the women on the campus were the prettiest.  It was advertising of a sort that was insulting to women, treating them as products and sexist at inception, but also elevated “men” or at least males to be the ones in judgement.  In my experience, entitled college men — usually sophomores — feel fully qualified and objective in making such subjective judgements about anything from breakfast to God.Leaving aside preferences among alternative beauties, these guys — meaning later to achieve the heights of trading stock — had given themselves the right to decide which women — via their socially approved appearance — would bequeath their escorts with assumed sexual prowess that would “pay” a woman for investment in a relationship.  Honesty, character, humor, faithfulness, were beside the point.  Same sex relationships were beneath notice, much less contempt.These assumptions persist in today’s Facebook methodology.  Sheryl Sandberg, in an interview, repeated over and over again that they were intent on providing “experiences.”  Like a pimp.There are various aspects of this kind of online experience which have great “felt” but unreal intimacy.  First is the supplying of bogus or slanted information, second is the suppression of information they don’t want you to have, and third is leaving you out, making you irrelevant.  There is a fourth:  making you look at advertising you didn’t ask for.These four amount to one simple truth:  online you are not in control.  Maybe you paid for content; maybe you “pay” by looking at adverts; maybe you reveal yourself by making contacts, mentions, and relationships; maybe they are taking notice of every delete you make, no matter how quickly.  With a computer they can record how long you look at any image.  How long did you look at that naked . . .    Oh, and you were just trying to figure out what it was?White Xian culture, particularly in its Aunt Grundy aspect, provides a reliable map of what’s in or what’s out.  Or so it seems.  It teaches people that if they didn’t really look/inhale, that gazing on naked people or smoking whatever, is a sign of innocence.  It isn’t.  it’s a sign of guilt— an entry point for a chancer.The entry point to Facebook is “happy families”a phrase the English tend to use sardonically, but the Americans — esp. those not quite wealthy, not quite English, not quite educated, rather recently immigrated — tend to define as those with good teeth, nice clothes, pretty houses, new cars.  The irony is that the people who really ARE like this aren’t aware they are privileged.  They believe everyone is like this.  The idea is rather new, the product of a fortunate time with rising incomes.  But more recently it has required a certain kind of blindness, the stepping-over of impoverished people flat on the sidewalk.  They’re not on Facebook.Beyond this ideal, the images and the precursor images of same-color/different gender grinning romantic couples assume they are not just hooking up, that they are making enough money to sustain a family, that they are secure in their jobs and that they don’t cheat.  At one time public opinion enforced these limits, but now they don’t.  Reality is Facebook cheating, maligning, framing, and denying.  It[...]



ANCIENT FARAWAY TIMES CREATE US

2018-04-05T11:13:29.671-06:00

It's really only a horseshoe.When the SE Pacific is warm (which is "normal"), the Montana weather is “normal,” which is to say it has the patterns to which we are accustomed for more recent decades.  We don’t know why the SE Pacific is sometimes warm, sometimes cool, an oscillation that’s only partly predictable, nor do we know what feeds its temperature.  We do know that it is part of the Ring of Fire, which is the circle around the edge of the Pacific Ocean.This ocean is newer than the Atlantic and its edge is probably the edge of the plate tectonic that defines it from underneath, except that the middle of the sea is an upwelling which pushes back on the land masses riding on adjacent continents, even parting land that was once connected.  This is why peonies, grizzly bears and American Indian DNA are on both coasts, Asian and American.  It is also why Valier, Montana, is an irrigation town.From National Geographic.  Links are still there.“The Ring of Fire is the result of plate tectonics. Tectonic plates are huge slabs of the Earth’s crust, which fit together like pieces of a puzzle. The plates are not fixed but are constantly moving atop a layer of solid and molten rock called the mantle. Sometimes these plates collide, move apart, or slide next to each other. Most tectonic activity in the Ring of Fire occurs in these geologically active zones.“A convergent plate boundary is formed by tectonic plates crashing into each other. Convergent boundaries are often subduction zones, where the heavier plate slips under the lighter plate, creating a deep trench. This subduction changes the dense mantle material into buoyant magma, which rises through the crust to the Earth’s surface. Over millions of years, the rising magma creates a series of active volcanoes known as a volcanic arc.”When the west coast of the Americas is struck hard by tectonic plates, the continents riding on top are jammed together.  If the pressure is hard enough, breaks between may be marked by volcanic mountains like the Cascades to relieve the pressure underneath.  Or, further inland, the land may rumple up into cordillera like the broad Rockies.  On the east side of the rumples, the major effect -- mostly in the deposition of water taken up in the steady band of moving wind that crosses the Pacific -- travels inland, and has moisture scraped from underneath in order to lighten the current enough to rise over mountains.On the west side of the Rocky Mountain cordillera the land is wet: trees, streams, and at bottom Flathead lake.  In the days of the melting glaciers, ten thousand years ago, so much water accumulated in this valley that the whole space was like a huge vat, but then the south toe found a way out and broke through, circling south and then cutting towards the west.  Next as precursor of the Snake River and the Columbia River, the water cut through the volcanic rock of the Cascades, creating a fabulous gorge and giving rise to the epic myth and opera called “The Bridge of the Gods.”On the east side of the Rockies the land was too dry for trees but the mountains themselves acted as a great frozen body of water which melted gradually every spring and flowed out in a thousand small streams managed by beavers until it was absorbed by grass and the remnants drained out the several massive coulees that remained ten thousands years after the melting of the huge northern continental glaciers.  Eventually [...]



WHAT I THINK ABOUT WHEN I WRITE

2018-04-04T10:56:36.211-06:00

Most of the people who call themselves writers, if only secretly, are entirely uninterested in readers — or publishers.  They are interested only in examining their own wonderful insides and assume that what they produce will be picked up by alert publishers and make them famous.  That’s the way it happens in books, which are written looking back and sometimes post-mortem.  (Death can make writing more saleable.)  It's juju.For instance, Native Americans are convinced that if any white people write about Native Americans, that will destroy the readership for Native American books because there are only a few people who actually read Native American books, not even other Native Americans.  The conviction is that there are X number of NA books that are read, no matter who writes them.  If A writes one, that eliminates the chance that anyone will read B’s book.  This is clearly nonsense.  Publishers share it.  Stupidly.There are two “ends” of the writing project that I think about and neither of them is about readers or publishers.  This is because I don’t write for those factors anymore.  I don’t care who reads it and blogging is close enough to publishing to get by.  Both are matters of “discovery,” which is finding out what exists and what you are looking for.  If an algorithm can elect a president, why is no one designing one that will find the book you want to read?Because you don’t know until you read it.  You have no sense of adventure. You still want the same brain twiddle you had last time.  And why are all the people who claim to be studying business in tribal colleges not studying the “business” of acquiring and selling books, whether paper or cyber.  Is it a matter of critical mass?  If so, wouldn’t part of business be about creating demand?  Is Adrian Jawort the only indigenous person on the planet to even imagine it?I’m only using NA’s as an example.  It’s not fair because they’ll clutch any blame to themselves and believe they are unique.  They're used to being unique and miserable.What I’m chasing to understand is the huge vista of the internal world of DNA and molecular function plus the equally huge and probably “huge-er” panoplay of the universe, which comes to us out of the past because it takes so long to get here across the light-years.  The things that used to be assigned to “religion” (which is a way of capturing and freezing the meaning and means of survival on this planet) and is now often called “science” which is enormously difficult to really understand -- or sometimes “spirituality,” which is soap bubbles.  Meaning.God is dead.  The nature of the human being as unique has followed quickly.  Now we are each simply a knot in the fabric of being, unconscious but potent, a tension shared with a neighbor in a separate skin.  Our existence changes the world but the DNA that makes us unique can be isolated by grinding bones to powder long after we’re dead.  Species interweave, inter-inhabit, and lie dormant.  It’s too much to think about.What people read now — the 70% of the reading public that is female and has time — is fiction.  The science goes out of its timeliness too easily.  Anyway, most of these readers don’t care about ideas.  They just want another iteration of a life story — people.  T[...]



A WORLD ON "PAUSE"

2018-04-03T10:55:52.492-06:00

The world is a sheet of white paper again this morning (4-3-18).  No bunny trails.  No traffic.  Weak wind.  It was clear with an almost full moon when I went to sleep.  Same moon, different side of the sky, in the last of the early dark hours.  I was having a long narrative dream about the Sixties when the conspiracy of cats woke me up.  I was dealing with one of the penumbra of opportunists at his auction house on the edge of Great Falls.  I had just managed a coup, buying a few of the fabulous jewel encrusted costumes of Delores Mezyk, our glamorous high school ice skating dancer and Rose Festival queen.  In the Fifties.  The dealer had a stooge, who was debating stealing the dresses from my car.In the dream Bob Scriver had just created a new little “prairie buck”, a pronghorn antelope figure, and I was putting that on his page in the computer which was anachronistic because computers weren’t invented yet.  It was before Christmas.  He was selling them for $150 each, no patina because everyone wanted everything to be gold.  I was helping with all this.  Then I drove off on I-15, which wasn’t built yet in those days.  I left my card with the crooks.  This dream was the usual jumble of television and history.In reality, the three big cats (Bunny, the mom; Tuxie her daughter and mother of Thimble and Thread; and Douxie who is entering tomcat erotomania again) slept in a row on my blue satin comforter.  The Tinies were chewing on my zebra-striped slippers.  Yesterday they found the grownup catfood in its saucer and got in to stand on it for convenience.  Today they made their first poop.  So far the big cats are willing to clean up.The forecast is blizzard until midnight.  I’m not entirely sure what year this is, what planet this is, and what my agenda today is supposed to be.  The forecast has been the same for days and is the same for a week into the future.As usual, it takes a few minutes sitting here to remember how to turn the computer on.  Then I have to remember my usual order of protocol.  We’ve just gone through a period when nothing I intended worked anyway.  There was a spinning planet earth, then there was a cryptic list of DXL channels along with one named for a neighbor.  I have two email accounts and never am sure which one will open with which password.  My three pages of typed passwords, carefully assigned to venues I hardly remember, are thumb-worn.  Some of them are defunct.  My computer use could not be more simple because my only social media is Twitter and it’s severely limited.Earlier I dumped many of my correspondents.  Some have died.  Few will take me seriously.  They have the idea that blogs (that funny name) are toys, emails are toys, Google is a toy, everything is a toy unless it is the New York Times (which IS a toy!).  They survive by not taking the world seriously.  It’s all watching television on four-foot-long screens to them: passive, invented, without any consequence.  Like elections.  Like weather, sometimes inconvenient.  They are racist, sexist, elitist — to them those are the markers for what is true.  I don’t qualify for any of them: I’m not just white but Scots/Irish; solitary; low income — such people are irrelevant.More than a year I’ve been closely [...]



THE FIVE NODE PERSONALITY GIZMO

2018-04-02T14:29:09.216-06:00

Let’s take a closer look at what the Cambridge Analytica outfit is touting as a “secret formula.”  First of all, note what Cambridge Analytica does by claiming a fancy name that has nothing to do with universities or any hint of the elite numerical.  Note that it is secretly allied with AggregateIQ, the other group with a pretentious name, though the latter doesn’t "work" for me for a silly reason.  In the Sixties the waterfowl hunting license use to put a limit on the number of ducks one could shoot “in the aggregate.”  Bob began to mock it by demanding to know just where on the bird the aggregate was anyway.  The other thing is that I’m old enough to remember when the IQ (Intelligence Quota) was invented and to know that it is grossly biased by culture and actually only indicates how well one does on intelligence tests -- not the real world.  The closer any task was to an IQ test item the better the testee did.  Since the IQ test items were based on work/school tasks in the English world, the correlation, a little circular, worked pretty well.  It did NOT work well for people who spoke differently and understood the world in non-English ways.  Blacks, Indians, women, the French, were all satifactorily low performers on the IQ test, which made the white English men who devised the test very smug since they had known all along that they were “better than anyone else.”This “five node” gizmo is quite like the Myers-Briggs test which has four dimensions meant to describe one’s personality.  M/B is loosely based on concepts developed by Jung, but has taken on a life of its own because it is used for everything from dating to predicting success in the church ministry.  There is always a hope out there that the puzzle of human uniqueness can be resolved by considering physiology, culture, and whether you like them or not.  But humans are pleasingly much too complex.In this case, the “five” are presented in single words, though the original research was expressed in terms of five continuums with a good-to-bad scale closely related.  They are anything but scientific, much informed by the culture which values some traits more than others, varying over time, since personalities are situational.  Openness to experience becomes the span of inventive/curious to consistent/cautious, with the bad end of the first half being reckless and unfocused but the good aspect of inventive/curious being artistic and seeking (and finding) experiences that are intense, even euphoric.  In terms of the second half, the bad end is stuck in a rut, fearful, dogmatic and closed minded, but the good aspect is careful and data-driven.Conscientiousness is really efficient/organized vs.easy-going/carelessness.  “Good” efficiency is self-disciplined and dependable.  Bad efficiency is stuck and stubborn.  Easy-going is fine if what is needed is flexibililty and spontaneity, but when bad it can be sloppy and unpredictable.Extraversion  (outgoing/energetic vs. solitary/reserved)  Good end is high energy, assertiveness, sociability, liking groups and talk.  Bad end of high extraversion can be attention-seeking and domineering.  Bad end of solitary/reserved can be aloof or self-absorbed.  Or the good side can be Presbyterian (jokes), that is, dignified.Agreeableness&[...]